So Lindsay Pascoe, my wonderful wife, asked me to write a blog post on the dad’s perspective of having a kid....but what do I know about having a baby? I just take the photos for this blog and have yet to experience that particular joy.
Then I remembered all the people in my life who I know have had kids. I reached out to them with the idea that they might answer a few questions and would be able to write an article combining their responses.
Their answers, however, were too special and touching, so I changed the plan and now will show them in full.... unedited over the course of the next few weeks.
So on to the first. This one is a little special. In wondering about childbirth I did what every guy would do, I first turned to my dad.
Teacher, Father of 3.
What was it like hearing that your wife/partner/girlfriend/random lady you just met was pregnant?
It's not possible to say the complete mix of emotions; sense of excitement, adventure, anticipation, scare at the thought of responsibility about bringing new life into the world (relief that all the systems work!!!)
What was the pregnancy like? Was it scary? Easy? What's it like for the dads in what is usually considered a feminine area?
The three pregnancies were each their own experience. The first: it's all new and you find your partner lingering in the bookshop looking at the books on pregnancy. We collected all the books of photos of development in the womb, etc. It was all new and we were nervous. But it was still an adventure. By the third, we didn't do so much research, but then Hannah was our surprise baby and we were in our mid thirties so much more confident in the world. And I hear you ask about the middle child? Well you know what they say about middle children (only joking Ben)
How did you prep yourself for labor? Any scary stories? Did you plan the route, pack a bag? Did it all go according to plan? Were there any emergencies during labor?
Each time was different. The first baby was overdue by two weeks so we went to the hospital for an induced birth with a sense of planned ordered firmness. This was a long labour – over 24 hours. There was the old Irish nun who kept advising "Don't burst your boiler, dear" and in a pethadine induced haze, Liz repeatedly telling me to return the staffroom clock on the wall.
The second baby was due in late December. It was at the end of a hot day and we drove to the hospital in the freshness of the cool evening on a Sunday....Liz got out of the car and her waters broke (much to the consternation of the passing couple walking their dog). By contrast, this was a shorter birth – all over by about 1 am, though a long period afterwards of bleed that meant I was left holding the baby for quite some time (see below).
The final birth involved arriving at the hospital in a music tuner's van (a work car that I was driving at that moment). Again, after the birth a period of heavy bleeding and a little worry for a by now older mother.
Did you photograph the labor? How did that work? Do you have any photos that you would like (can) share...
Yes, all three were photographed – and developed within hours and attached to cards printed specifically for each birth (with hand drawn cartoons).
I doubt if your mother would allow them to be posted. Ask her.
What was it like meeting your new baby for the first time?
Our first born was whisked away quickly to the Children's Hospital because he was born with a cleft lip and palate – so there was less time for holding and bonding. Though, from memory, it was me who drove the baby in a humidcrib to PMH (Princess Margaret Hospital) because it was quicker than an ambulance. Not that there was any sense of emergency or immediacy because he was a healthy, well-weighted baby (apart from the palate problem). In fact he was the giant of the neonatal ward.
As I mentioned immediately after Ben was born, Liz had a major bleed and was whisked away so I sat for over an hour holding him. This was a special time and I sang to Ben (me who was cast as a mute in a musical and who sings idiosyncratically at the best of times). But I am proud to say that I sang to my son at his birth and hope that he sings to his children all his life.
(* a note from Liz: Robin's wife* "I must make one correction. I did not have a bleed after your birth ( the bleed was after Hannah's). I was however away from you and Dad for over an hour because back in 1982 the hospital practice was that the mother after labour must produce urine- which was measured by the midwife- and then you got your baby back. After all that effort pushing you out - the largest of our 3- it took me over an hour to do the urinal deed. Hence Dad's singing.")
It's difficult to say the emotions of a daughter after two sons – I know saying at the time to Liz that "she had what she was hoping for, a daughter". Unlike the other two, at this birth I had the opportunity of cutting the umbilical cord – how things change over such a short time – and remarking about how tough it was to cut through the tissue. The enormity of having a daughter after sons is something I am still coming to terms with. It has certainly made for an assertive daughter (it's called the Germaine Greer syndrome, as she was daughter in a household of males). My first impressions of Hannah were that she was going to make her mark on our lives. And she has.
What was it like bringing a new baby home? How did you cope with lack of sleep, feedings?
By the time Pip came home from hospital he was well seasoned and we had everything prepared and ready. But nothing quite prepares you for the sense of responsibility. The impact on your lives is enormous – and yet somehow satisfying and fulfilling.
Sleep? Who needs sleep? You can always sleep in the grave.
With the other two, we had less sleep.
Any advice for New Fathers?
Enjoy the experience. It is incomparable, demanding and totally rewarding.
Any other anecdotes you would like to share?
Not at this moment.
Have you ever tasted breastmilk? intentionally or unintentionally
Closest I came to it was licking some spilt formula from my fingers.